Chicago’s Ambitious ‘Pedestrian Plan’ Could Be Tough On Drivers
“Make no little plans,” Daniel Burnham famously said.
Perhaps Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein was evoking the spirit of the famous urban planner and architect who had such an enduring influence on Chicago, when he unveiled the city’s ambitious Chicago Pedestrian Plan on Thursday morning.
At the corner of Madison & Dearborn, Klein along with representatives from the Department of Health, the Chicago Police Department, Illinois Department of Transportation and Active Transportation Alliance, spoke before reporters about the many months of work that went into the over 100 page report.
“This is a historic day for Chicago and CDOT,” Klein said. “It’s been a long process–over a year. The mayor recognizes a more walkable city is a more viable city.”
Aggressive Reduction Of Pedestrian Crashes
Perhaps the most overriding goal of the plan is not just to reduce pedestrian crashes, but to eliminate pedestrian fatalities due to crashes completely.
“Chicago experiences roughly 3,000 crashes annually between motor vehicles and pedestrians, resulting in an average of 50 deaths per year,” said Klein reading from a press release. “The Chicago Pedestrian Plan reaffirms CDOT’s goals of reducing pedestrian crashes by 50% every five years and eliminating pedestrian fatalities within 10 years.”
The plan is comprehensive with a litany of solutions including marking more crosswalks, improving visibility of crosswalks with vertical versus horizontal markings, installing more in road crosswalk signs to remind drivers of the recently changed crosswalk laws, dynamic speed displays to show drivers how fast they’re traveling and remind them to slow down. It includes constructing pedestrian refuge islands to allow people to safely cross one direction of roadway at a time on busy streets, installing innovative pedestrian traffic signals, and continuing to install pedestrian countdown timers at signalized intersections.
Other new ideas include allowing pedestrians a few seconds head start before the traffic signal allows vehicular traffic to move. This concept is called a “leading pedestrian interval” and gives pedestrians three seconds of lead time ahead of motor vehicles. Similarly, the Chicago Pedestrian Plan encourages a concept called “lagging left turns,” where the left turn signal is at the end of the signalized traffic cycle instead of the beginning. CDOT studies seem to indicate more vehicles turning left make it through the light, backups of cars decreases and conflicts between pedestrians and left turning vehicles are reduced.
Plan Means Less Roadway For Motor Vehicles
The report also calls for engineering solutions which take aim at decreasing roadway for motor vehicles with the goal of reducing vehicle speeds which CDOT believes is necessary to reducing pedestrian crashes.
This includes road diets which reduce lanes to install wider sidewalks and bike lanes, intersection roundabouts, chicanes, an road engineering method which staggers traffic in a zig-zag pattern using mid-block bumpouts to reduce speed and traffic volume. The plan calls for use of more speed bumps/humps, traffic circles, and converting one way residential streets to two way traffic to reduce the speed of vehicular traffic.
“Everyone is a pedestrian during the course of the day,” said Klein explaining that even drivers and bikers must walk once they park their vehicles. “Everyone should be heavily invested in this.”
Zero Pedestrian Fatalities?
Ron Burke, Executive Director of Active Transportation Alliance was on hand to weigh in on the pedestrian plan as well.
“We’re excited about the goal of zero fatalities,” said Burke. “This is a goal that is achievable. We want to thank the city for putting time and effort into this plan.”
But does CDOT and Commissioner Klein truly believe implementing the pedestrian plan can realistically eliminate all pedestrian deaths?
“I figure if we an come close to it in D.C. we can do it here,” said Klein who spent two years in the nation’s capital in the same capacity. “D.C. reduced pedestrian deaths by 80%.”
More Automated Enforcement
Of the 250 or so ideas generated by the year of public meetings, public solicitation via the CDOT website and input from city departments and outside agencies, Klein admits his favorite is increasing automated enforcement.
“More automated enforcement is key,” said Klein. “It’s pretty low cost and high return as far as effect. Cameras are just of the tools in the tool box.”
Klein, who used speed camera enforcement during his time in Washington D.C., has been the force behind bringing this type of automated enforcement to Chicago. After state and city law to allow speed camera enforcement was enacted in the past 12 months, coincidentally the deadline for potential vendors to bid for the speed camera contract is Monday, September 10th.
Here’s CDOT’s entire 114 page Chicago Pedestrian Plan.